What differentiates terrorism from other crimes against humanity is its intended impact that would not only harm but would clearly sow fear among the public. There is no other way of getting the terrorist message across but through the commission of acts that are unimaginable to human mind. Usama Bin Laden knows this and there are proofs that to achieve his end, he intends to use WMD (McCloud & Osborne, 2001). It is so terrifying to think that Bin Laden has exerted a lot of effort to acquire WMD despite the fact that even the superpowers of the world had been unwilling to use WMD to fight their adversaries because of the magnitude of devastation that WMD could wreak to lives and properties.
Although in this article, much still needs to be debated on the reliability of the testimony of Jamal Ahmad Al-Fadt (to whose security the US government had already spent close to a million dollars) about Bin Laden’s undertakings in the acquisition of WMD, one fact clearly stands out: years before the September 11 attacks, Bin Laden had already been preparing for a monstrous terrorist act that would change the course of history of mankind. Apparently, obtaining the ingredients for the development of WMD had not been easy that Al Qaeda has not yet been able to use it according to its design. More alarming is the revelation that Bin Laden had been employing atomic scientists to convert nuclear warheads into portable “suitcase nukes” that would be even more lethal than the bombs that Al Qaeda operatives have been detonating to kill innocent people since the 1990s. Some might doubt reports on the likelihood of WMD terrorism, but still security agencies of all states which condemn terrorism should do everything to prevent it from happening. In WMD terrorism, we are not just talking about sporadic killings of people, but rather genocide and irreversible destruction.
Madrasas – Fountain of Hate
The tenacity of Al Qaeda attacks speaks of intense animosity that is unmistakably deeply embedded in the mind and soul of the terrorists. This and the observed correlation between the increase in the number of muhajideens or Islamic fighters and the increase in the number of madrasas or Islamic schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan point to the possibility that these schools shape the minds of young children towards Islamic extremism to eventually become terrorists (Armanios, 2003).
Aside from what is stated above, there are other strong reasons to believe that madrasas have become breeding grounds of Muslim radicals because firstly, being religious in nature, there is a tendency for their curricula to lean towards conservative Islam. Also, since madrasas cater to poor Muslim youth, some sectors think that poverty may cause the children to become radicalized. However, it should also be noted that there is also an emerging pattern of affluent, highly educated and professional Muslims that are being implicated in terrorist attacks, such as the doctors in the failed attempt to bomb Glasgow international airport in 2007 (“Doctors Held in Bomb Attack Probe”, 2007).
Still, even if there are strong indicators on the tendency of madrasas to breed Islamic radicals, it might also be unfair to stereotype these Islamic schools as such. In the first place, the madrasas can also serve as the vehicles to promote religious tolerance among the youth. Hence, active and proper regulation of concerned governments, with the possible aid from external donors, is being called for to address this problem. Once this is corrected, it will indeed contribute significantly in promoting peaceful coexistence of religions, and in stemming Islamic extremism that characterizes many of the dreaded terrorist organizations today.
Terrorism in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia had been named as the second front in the war against terror after the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) perpetrated the Bali Bombings in 2002. Before this attack, Muslims in this region have considered themselves as moderates, and their governments, secular.
Extremism in this region is brought by a confluence of factors, such as: the fact that it is home to the country with the most number of Muslims (Indonesia) and homegrown Muslim separatist groups (in the Philippines); the view that the 1997 Asian financial crisis that plunged many Southeast Asian countries into poverty was a result of the Western-led globalization; existence of madrasas or pesantrens, particularly in poor provinces in Indonesia and the Philippines; and the fact that many Muslims from this side of the world who heeded the call to jihad during the Afghan-Soviet War of 1979 returned home radicalized.
Analysts believe that the region is conducive to operations of Islamic terrorist organizations. It was believed that an Al Qaeda official, Khaled Sheik Mohammed had also prepared the region for the operations of other Al Qaeda terrorists such as Ramzi Yousef , who is the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, failed plot to assassinate the Pope in 1995 and the foiled plan to down US planes that same year (“The Challenge Facing Southeast Asia”, 2003). More than the penetration of its operatives, local terrorist groups were also found to have established links with Al Qaeda, such as the JI, which is considered as Al Qaeda’s arm in the region.
However, the real challenge is how not to alienate the moderate Muslims in the crackdown against terrorists, especially in the US War on Terror. It is paramount for the US to sustain the cooperation of the moderates and secular governments so as not to aggravate Muslims’ anti-American sentiments. On the US side, it is also a balancing act to see to it that its counterterrorism assistance would not be use against legitimate groups and undermine surviving democracies in the region.
Terrorism in Latin America
South America is not known to be a hotbed of Islamic extremists, except for the known operations of Hizbollah and Hamas in the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay (Sullivan, 2005). However, terrorism in the Western hemisphere is more associated with communist insurgent groups and drug or criminal syndicates. Even if counterterrorism in this region is different from counterterrorism practiced by the US in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, it is extremely important for US homeland security to ensure that this region is free from Al Qaeda operations. Reports on Al Qaeda’s attempt to infiltrate the US-Mexico border and on Hondurans being recruited by Al Qaeda to attack US embassies have surely alerted the US authorities for sometime; but these reports were never confirmed.
Aside from the presence of Islamic extremists in the region, the second biggest US concern in Latin America is combating terrorist financing that is usually sourced from drug trafficking and other illicit means of raising funds. Latin American criminal organizations may also be used by terrorist organizations in money laundering in order to hide their assets.
Moreover, just like in Southeast Asia one of the concerns here is the possibility of using massive US counterterrorism assistance in the crackdown on legitimate political organizations that may result in the instability of democracy in this region. It should be noted that Latin American countries, despite their proximity to US, have histories of undemocratic regimes. Thus in Latin America, as well as in other parts of the world, the US should bear the responsibility of defining the terms and bounds of its War on Terror and make sure that its funds are being used for its intended and right purpose.
Armanios, F. (2003), Islamic Religious Schools, Madrasas: Background. (CRS Report for Congress) Retrieved from CRS Web.
Doctors Held in Bomb Attack Probe (2007, July 2) BBC News Online. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6261076.stm.
McCloud, K. & Osborne, M (2001) WMD Terrorism and Usama Bin Laden. CNS Reports. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/reports/binladen.htm.
Sullivan, M.P. (2005). Latin America: Terrorism Issues. (CRS Report for Congress) Retrieved from CRS Web.
The Challenge Facing Southeast Asia. (2003, February 17) Foreign Policy Association Newsletter. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from http://www.fpa.org/newsletter_info2485/newsletter_info.htm.